To make wildlife habitats better, bigger and more connected so that they are more resilient and adaptable to the effects of climate change. To increase ways of reconnecting people with nature. To determine the distribution and status of non-native invasive species prior to identifying appropriate species-specific actions.

Why is it important?

The Wensleydale catchment contains more than 14,500Ha of UK Priority Habitats, 1232km Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Rivers and 57km historic hedgerows. More than 50% of this priority habitat is outside Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and other designated areas. A review of the current evidence base has shown that rivers and streams, upland and lowland Hay Meadows, lakes and ponds and blanket bog habitats all have a significant proportion of their YDNP resource in the project area and have also been classified as having high or medium sensitivity to climate change. The review also revealed that 100% of the Yorkshire Dales populations of Burnt Orchid and Dormouse and a significant proportion of suitable breeding habitat for upland wading bird species (such as Curlew and Lapwing) lie within the project area, providing unique opportunities.

What are the specific problems?

Over the last three decades Wensleydale has gradually lost so many sites where native species thrived and even some “protected” sites are deteriorating. This incremental loss is damaging the intricate web of inter-connected species that is essential for natural processes. The specialist species like the cuckoo are already on the brink but even the cowslip, which was once common place, is disappearing. The anonymous insects and fungi that are vital for a functioning system are also losing space. And it is happening across the habitats of the catchment, both terrestrial and aquatic. John Lawton’s remedy of bigger, better, more and joined is very relevant to Wensleydale. The distributions of non-native invasive species are unknown; strategies and action to tackle them need to be well considered but swift, while the scale of the problem is still manageable.

What are we going to do?

Achieve multiple benefits for the River Ure and tributaries through targeted native woodland restoration and creation designed to reduce diffuse pollution and flooding, increase shade and improve fish stocks, whilst also increasing the functional connectivity of the woodland network.

Target restoration of lowland and upland hay meadows to increase the resilience and functional connectivity of the Wensleydale species-rich grassland network while also benefiting Burnt Orchid.

Target restoration and management of degraded blanket bog to achieve more natural drainage that slows the flow of water, enhances biodiversity and reduces carbon emissions. Improve the condition and number of ponds on the floodplain throughout the catchment, to provide stepping-stone sites for pond life and increase resilience to climate change by slowing flood run-off and providing refuges in times of drought. Increase the area of suitable breeding habitat for upland wading bird species within the moorland fringe, targeted by utilising existing Habitat Suitability Models. 

Facilitate the range expansion of Dormice by ensuring that existing woodlands and hedgerows within a 825 Ha project area are in appropriate management and increasing in structural connectivity.

Provide a range of opportunities for people to reconnect with nature, increase their understanding of its value and encourage support for its continued management.

Determine the distribution and status of invasive non-native species prior to identifying appropriate species-specific actions.